No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Monday, 5 October 2015


Breadmaking is seen as a scary thing for some people, but all my teaching is geared towards removing that fear and showing it to be the simple cooking procedure that it is.

The fact is, that if you mix flour, lukewarm water and yeast together – you cannot stop your bread from rising!

All my recipes follow the same path – and they all follow these rules.

The three simple rules which you should bear in mind when making bread are:

1. Use strong, breadmaking flour – look for the words ‘strong’ or ‘bread’ on the packet. Plain flour will work in an emergency, and a mixture of strong and plain will work fine.
2. Use lukewarm (hand hot) water, and don’t put your dough anywhere too hot. Forget airing cupboards and radiators, the bread will rise on your worktop.
3. Give your bread time to rise after its final shaping and before it goes into the oven. White bread will double in size – a pizza base should look puffy compared to when you rolled it out.

And that’s it!

There’s also a couple of things to bear in mind, but aren’t rules as such:

1. Make sure your dough is soft and squishy – never be afraid to add more water whilst you’re mixing the dough.
2. If you have the slightest doubt whether your bread is done or not, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes. Look for colour on the bottom of your bread.

Yeast: Whatever yeast you’re using – fresh, active dried (comes in a tin) or easyblend (comes in sachets), treat them all the same.

Mix the yeast in the lukewarm water until dissolved, then add it straight into the flour.

As a general rule, use half as much dried yeast as fresh – so if the recipe says a dessertspoon of fresh yeast, use a teaspoon of dried.

But don’t worry too much about the amount of yeast you use: the more yeast you use, the faster your bread will rise; the less you use, the longer it will take.

A bread dough made with 400g (2 mugs) of flour will make a medium-sized loaf, about 8 bread rolls, two or three pizzas or 8 sizzlers (wraps, really) – or any other savoury bread you can think of!

I want to use this blog to demonstrate just how easy and accessible home breadmaking can be (is)! So here are several recipes to start you off.

Here's a seeded wholemeal loafa savoury bread (cheese and tomato wraps), and a sweet bread (Chelsea buns). (I'm on YouTube with both of these (link down the side of the blog) last two - but please ignore the 'After 10-minutes, put it in the oven' instruction. You need to see that the bread has risen before baking it.)

Or, if you want to get straight into making some rolls, here's my bread rolls recipe.

And, bit more complicated, this one, here's my basic loaf of bread recipe.

Breadmaking is much easier than pastrymaking (IMHO), and the dough is much more forgiving. What's more, virtually anything that can be made with pastry can be made with a bread dough – which can be completely fat free!

Apart from all this, there are several other reasons for making your own bread:

It's a lot cheaper - a 1.5kg bag of own-brand white flour, which will make three large loaves, currently costs less than one loaf of bread in the shops. A 25cm (10") cheese and tomato pizza can be made for around 70p. And you can make a batch of Chelsea buns for less than the price of one in a baker's shop.

It's healthier. You control the quality of the food you feed your family. Check out the number of ingredients on a wrapped sliced loaf.

It's more convenient than buying your bread - one of my students, who lives about 300 yards from a large supermarket told me she thought it was quicker to knock up a batch of rolls rather than nip to the supermarket.

At home you can make many different varieties of breads that you cannot even buy – or are very expensive to buy in the shops.

If you'd rather have organic bread it's much cheaper to make your own. If you want bread without salt, you have to make it yourself. The only way to make breads like pane casereccio (filled with Italian sausage and Gruyere - I use vegan sausage and cheese), or tarte Alsace* (a thin dough covered with [vegan] creme fraiche, then thinly sliced onions and slices of mushroom and tomato) is to make them yourself.

It's very enjoyable, dammit! It's fun to make your own bread - it's very satisfying to see a batch of terrific-smelling, great-looking bread come out of the oven. You get a sense of achievement you cannot get with any other branch of cooking (IMO!) (But beware – it can become very addictive.)

And if you're around kids, it's lovely to share the experience with them. Kids and breadmaking just go so well together.

Sunday, 4 October 2015


Singed a bit - but showing the sunflower seeds

I had a plea from a friend of mine who was trying to follow my recipe for overnight-proving, no-knead loaf. It never seemed to rise properly the second time, he reported.

So I thought I should go back to basics, and give the recipe I’ve been following recently.

It takes less than 2 hours, only uses one proving (rising), and yet it’s a very tasty loaf.

I’ve recently re-discovered the joys of toasted seeds in my bread – but they can be left out with no effect – except the loaf will have more flavour if they're included.

Monday, 3 August 2015

RHUBARB PIE - with the simplest pastry ever! (Vegan)

Who would have thought that a pie could be simpler than a crumble? Yet that's the case here!

Pastry too thick? Not so sure.The filling is just tart enough, and the pastry is almost cake-like!
500g of rhubarb, with 100g of sugar, encased in a sweetened bread dough. Sounds simple, and it is - but it's oh, so flavoursome!

Here's a savoury pie, made the same way, with the method of assembly shown in pics. I used 200g of self raising flour, with 25g of sugar, and my wife maintains the pastry is too thick. So I was thinking that next time I'll use 150g of flour and roll the dough out thinner. But then again, I'm sitting here munching a slice of cold pie (and trying to leave some for tomorrow!), and the proportions seem just right. The pastry, bread, call it what you will, is almost cake-like - it's absolutely gorgeous!

Saturday, 1 August 2015


A Thai chilli non carne pie!

The other half ended up in the freezer
As a vegan, I often find myself thinking out of the box, and here's a pastry which uses no milk, butter, marge or lard. Consequently, there is no need for that tiresome technique known as 'rubbing in' which is supposed to make something like 'breadcrumbs'. 

No need, either, for resting the pastry in the fridge - this is a 'quick pastry'. Or for 'baking blind' - there's no need for any of that faff. Instead, the ingredients are mixed into a dough - kneaded for a few seconds to distribute the ingredients properly - then rolled out and popped into a pie dish. If there is an easier method, I'd like to hear of it!


I've recently spent a few days at a lovely old hotel in Sesimbra, Portugal, the Hotel Do Mar, with my son and three of my four grandchildren. (The fourth, 22 months old, stayed at home with my daughter.)

Before we went, I spoke to the hotel who vaguely assured me that they would be able to cater for my veganism.

On the first day, I had breakfast of cereal with fruit juice, toast and jam - so no problem there. (I don't usually have breakfast, but, hey, I'm on holiday, right?)

When I spoke to the Maitre D, I had to explain - several times - just exactly what a vegan could and could not eat. He was very curious - and a bit mystified, I have to say.

Lunch was veg soup, fried potatoes and bread. Interestingly, the soup was billed as a cream soup - but I was assured that 'creamed' in this case meant 'blitzed'. The Portuguese haven't yet adopted the abominable English (?) habit of adding cream to their soups.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


Seitan generally:

Seitan is wheat gluten powder (available online from the Low Carb Megastore ) mixed with something tasty into a stiff dough. The tasty stuff (ragu sauce, lentil curry, dried apricots [soaked overnight], or whatever) can be mashed or blitzed with a hand blender. This latter produces a thick slurry to which you add gluten powder. I generally work on the ratio of 2 parts slurry to one part gluten powder - but you may have to add either more GP or liquid. In my experience you need to heavily spice your slurry - over-spice it if you like.


200g of seitan - enough for a meal with some leftover for the next day

Once the seitan is made, fill up a small cooking dish with as much as you can get in - in this case, around 200g - and then cook for 30 minutes at 200C.

I generally have about 2/3rds of this with my roast dinner, and the rest I'll chop into chunks and have in a chilli non carne or similar.


Monday 23rd January 2012
Following a discussion on the BBC Food board last night, I made a batch of these, some of which I had last night, and another batch of which I've just eaten for breakfast. 

(When starting a sourdough culture, you're asked to discard part of it regularly during the early stages. However, this discard makes excellent pikelets.)

In the light of this I've updated the recipe (see below) - and I took several more pics:

The first two were cooked on top and the rest are just drying from the sides 
The third one turned over and the others continuing to dry from the edges 
All done - just need something on top...

...and covered with marmalade. Breakfast is ready!
Have to admit I found it hard to resist eating these just as soon as they come out of the frying pan. Had some for my pudding tonight, made some for my wife and made enough for tomorrow's breakfast.

June 2010.

Placed in the frying pan, a dessertspoon at a time
Oops, seems to be one missing!
There are few things easier than making pikelets (free-form crumpets).  It’s a good way into breadmaking for a beginner.

300ml lukewarm water
1 teaspoon yeast – any kind
Enough strong (breadmaking) flour - around 200g - to make a thickish paste

(Check here for a gluten-free version.)

Stir the water/yeast/flour mixture, adding more flour if it’s a bit thin – or more water if it’s a bit thick, and leave until you're ready to cook them.

When you're ready to go, lightly oil a frying pan and place over a medium heat.

When the pan is warm enough, place a spoonful of batter in the frying pan to see if the batter is the right consistency. If they spread across your frying pan the batter is too thin and you’ll need to add some more flour to thicken it. Cook them until the top has turned pale and is set in a mass of tiny holes.

As soon as the top is dry – and not before – turn them over to cook on the other side. They should be nicely brown on both sides.

Keep them warm in a folded cloth until they are all done.

For fruit pikelets, as in the pic, add a handful of sultanas after you’ve mixed the batter.

I made these last night and had half the batter left over for this morning’s breakfast. The fruit plumps up lovely.

These can also be made with self raising flour - in which case, simply mix the batter and go straight ahead.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015


[More info to come - of course! :)]


Just beginning to cook

Cooking the other side

Done! Takes about 5 minutes.